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Feds frustrated by constantly crashing apps

Kenneth Corbin | Dec. 16, 2016
New report from Riverbed Technology identifies pervasive headaches stemming from unreliable applications in the federal government.

Imagine if Twitter was offline for an entire day. Sure, some might be happy for the break, but the uproar that would greet a day with no access to the internet's public square would no doubt be loud and angry.

Within the federal government, however, seeing collaboration, communication and database applications go offline for a day or longer is commonplace, a new survey has found.

Riverbed Technology partnered with the Government Business Council to ask 336 government employees about the applications their agency provides, an area that has been undergoing rapid evolution as federal CIOs have been scrambling to update legacy systems in response to an array of executive directives and rising expectations for government services.

It's not that there aren't generally deployed mechanisms for reporting outages. Seventy percent of respondents say that their agency has a clearly defined procedure for reporting malfunctioning applications, but 32 percent of the federal workers polled say that it takes at least a day for their agency to fix a nonworking app.

Unsurprisingly, those performance issues translate into high levels of frustration with the government's IT operations, with 98 percent of respondents saying that performance outages adversely affect their productivity, and a significant majority expressing skepticism about the government's ability to successfully undertake major new initiatives, such as the 2020 U.S. Census. More than 40 percent of respondents express frustration at finicky apps once a day or even more frequently.

"The net of that is 80 percent of them have doubts about government's ability to support digital transformation or migration to the cloud, because they don't think the government has invested in the tools or the training to support these big government initiatives," Davis Johnson, vice president of Riverbed's public sector division and a co-author of the report, tells in a phone interview.

Government haste to get to the cloud causing app headaches

Respondents identify application speeds and load time, as well as crashes and freezes, as the chief sources of IT frustration within their agencies, and report that collaboration apps give them the most headaches.

Johnson attributes some of the faltering applications simply to the government's haste to get to the cloud and digitize processes and applications. The feds, hardly known for moving swiftly, have in fact been setting up cloud computing deployments faster than many observers anticipated. That has led to some bullish predictions for future growth. IDC analyst Shawn McCarthy published a report in February projecting that 8.5 percent of federal IT spending would go to cloud computing in fiscal 2016, and forecasting that that proportion would balloon to 50 percent by 2018.

That's not Riverbed's prediction, to be sure, but Johnson does observe that in their rush to move to the cloud, federal IT shops haven't always tended to the basic blocking and tackling that is required to ensure that the network is capable of supporting a new class of data-heavy applications.


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